runway: 07/25 - 2400x50m/7874x148ft - Asphalt
Damblain airfield (Base Aerienne Damblain, ICAO: LFYD) was a reserve airbase 260 kilometer southeast of Paris.
It was originally built in 1936 as an airfield for the French Armée de l'Air. It was not used by the Germans during World War II and returned to agriculture immediately after the war.
The airfields history restarted in 1950, when NATO, in the early years of the Cold War, recognised it had several problems when attempting to solve the air power survival equation. Planning for first strike survival in both conventional and nuclear wars had to be considered. NATOs primary operating bases were built on relatively small parcels of land with very limited dispersal space. Therefore it was decided to also build dispersal bases away from the primary bases to be used in the event of an emergency (war). Damblain was intended to be built as a NATO main operating base for the United States Air Forces, under the proposed name "Neufchâteau Air Base", even though that town is located quite some distance away. Alledgedly this was because the name of Neufchâteau was better known in a fregion of France where the US held many army bases during World War I. However, ultimately, the base was not to become a station of the USAF, possibly because lack of a major city nearby meant there would be difficulties housing dependent families. Therefore, Damblain became a "NATO Dispersed Operating Base", meaning it was to be used by the Armée de l'Air during exercises and times of tension.
No flying units were planned to ever be permanently assigned to Damblain, it was to be used for dispersal training only. However, it did require the same basic level of equipment as a standard air base. French security personnel were required to control base access, guard equipment, munitions and supplies stored at and near the facility, as well as to prevent vandalism. Damblain airbase was a fairly basic facility, with a parallel taxi track that could serve as a runway, a minimum of buildings and infrastructure, three dispersal areas or 'marguerites' and a single medium sized platform.
Construction began in 1953 and Damblain Air Base was designed for 3 squadrons totalling about 50 fighters on three large dispersal areas (called 'marguerites'). Construction was rapid and complete by the time the French Air Force flew its first NATO exercise (Shooting Star) from the base between 20 and 27 September 1954. The deployment exercise was followed immediately by "Indian Summer", during which the French flew their new F-84G Thunderjets of the 3e Escadre de Chassse out of Reims AB from the base.
Composite photo of Damblain in March 1956. While complete and ready for use, this displays not the final shape of the airfield, as the runway overruns have yet to be built (IGN.fr)
In 2005, the airfield was disposed of by the military and acquired by the Conseil Général of Vosges (CG88) with the intention of renovating it for use as a commercial zone to help lift the unemployment in the region. From 2007, the airfield infrastructure was slowly dismantled, removing the local aeroclub (which had used the airfield for almost 40 years) in the process. Surprisingly, given the earlier construction of the airfield, the remains of a Gallo-Roman villa were found at the site during excavation work that had already begun.
Work on dismantling the airfield was halted in 2010 however, when it was found that the supposed candidate to start a distribution center at the site had not yet made any formal agreements and even worse: it formally announced to withdraw from the project to converted the airfield into an industrial zone. Work was soon after halted. That did not stop the Vosges Department from expelling the local flying club, however. As has happened frequently at other airfields in France this century, local, regional and national politicians closed the airfield without regards to their users or their investments.
Damblain in 2006 a year after the Vosges department aquired the airfield and about a year before the airfield began to be demolished (Google Earth).
What remained of Damblain in 2015: its dispersals largely removed and only parts of the runway an taxitracks remaining. The beginnings of an industrial zone and a trainyard are appearing on the north side of the runway (Google Earth)